I have wanted to write about this for a while, mostly to see if other people are caught up the very same thing. “This” being not the wildly popular and intriguing Humans of New York but instead, the equally wildly popular, intriguing and some can say extreme time-suck that is the comments section of Humans of New York.
For those of you that may not be familiar with Humans of New York (HONY), it was started in 2010 by photographer Brandon Stanton. He thought it would be cool to try and photograph 10,000 New Yorkers and plot them on a map of the city. He wasn’t really capturing any quotes or stories at first but somehow along the way of him posting his images on Facebook, the posts (and subsequent stories) began to take a life of their own. Fast forward a few years later and Brandon has over 8 million followers on social media, published a #1 New York Times bestselling book, travelled and conducted a series of photo blogs outside of NYC, the most popular a recent photo series in Iran, a recent one showing Syrian refugees and one of telling the stories (and many injustices) of those incarcerated in the New York prison system. He has been featured on countless TV shows, raised thousands of $ for everything and everyone from lost pets to adoption to displaced refugees.
It is not uncommon for his photos to garner upwards of 2k comments in a very short period of time and it is here that I can become equally proud to be a human being and equally disgusted to be a human being living in this social media generation – all at the same time. It’s worth noting that the overwhelming majority of the comments are positive. One could argue it is because his photos are working to show humanity in all its colors, they are simple, they are human, they are real.But..the negative comments are fascinating. People, most likely strangers are soo quick to judge, name call, bash, state their opinion for the world to see. Whew! I get that the public platform of a photo journalist blog will leave it open for everyone to participate but it makes me cringe to think how disrespectful (and egotistical) we have become as a society that (a) we feel we have the right to even give our opinion if it’s not going to be a nice one and (b) that we can be so 1 dimensional and narrow-minded as to give our opinion based on an image or the small story behind it. I leave this blog by saying that I usually take say goodbye to Humans of New York encouraged, hopeful and maybe just the teeniest bit sad but always tired (iIneed to cut my HONY addiction or at least stop reading them at night!).